26/10/2013

NZ's Achilles Heel: Scientists Warn of Harm from GE Food

 

An international group of over 85 scientists, academics and physicians has warned that harmful effects of GE foods may be being deliberately ignored, and say that there is no scientific agreement that genetically engineered (GE) foods and crops are safe. [1]

The expert group dismisses claims by industry that GE foods are proven safe, and in their conclusion warn that scientific research on the risks from the expansion of GE foods into the animal and human food chain must be “honest, ethical, rigorous, independent, transparent, and sufficiently diversified to compensate for bias”.

As well as speaking out against bias in research and regulation that puts public health at risk, the experts say assessment must also involve “socioeconomic” considerations of the broader environment, community and society.

The international alert has been issued at a time when it has been revealed that New Zealand consumers could be under threat from high pesticide residues in GE food. New results from an accredited laboratory that tested Argentinian genetically modified soybeans found levels of glyphosate almost 5 times higher than the acceptable maximum residue level. These soybeans also have significantly reduced protein content. [2]

New Zealand imports around 1,200 tonnes of soybean meal per year from Argentina. [3] This is a concern for New Zealanders especially those seeking ethically and safely produced food. The sprays used on these GE crops have been linked to reproductive problems and deformities in communities who live and work near the GE soybean plantations. There is also particular concern for consumers who have allergies to more conventional wheat products and rely on soybean for their main dietary source of protein.

The unmonitored importation of GE soy and other GE crops as animal feed is the Achilles heel for New Zealand food producers and exporters like Fonterra. Food safety is being compromised as companies seek to save money by taking the 'cheap and nasty' option to feed animals that we rely on to produce our milk and meat for export, and for New Zealanders to consume.

“Untested new GE soy varieties risk harm from the engineered genes but also the cocktail of dangerous herbicides used in the growing environment. The chemical mix on GE crops is resulting in food becoming a “biotech pesticide factory” that signals long term human health problems,” said Claire Bleakley president of GE Free NZ.

Unlike traditionally bred, hybrid and open pollinated plants, which are killed if herbicides are sprayed on them, herbicide-resistant Genetically Engineered (GE) plants are designed to survive high levels of pesticides whilst they are growing. The growing of GE “pesticide-tolerant" plants has resulted in weed and insect resistance that has then led to even more chemicals being used.

By contrast, scientific studies in countries that do not use Genetically Engineered plants have shown that there has been a reduction in overall use of pesticides, and have better overall production. [4]

"GE Free NZ is aware that the Ministry of Primary Industries has not conducted any monitoring for labelling requirements or pesticide levels on GE foods since 2002," said Jon Carapiet, national spokesman for GE Free NZ.

“Vulnerable people who need to be able to trust that our official food approval systems are robust, can no longer have confidence that authorities are doing their job properly by monitoring the rising levels of pesticides in the diet.”

It is extremely important that the regulators and local authorities are able to protect communities from the rising evidence of harm from any use of GE in the diet, especially the rising toxic levels of pesticides in GE foods. (5,6)

New Zealand has an advantage as a GE Free agricultural nation that we must protect. The importation of pesticide-laden GE human and animal feed is a threat to the integrity of our food system.

References:
[1] No consensus on GMO safety - scientists release statement. http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php/news/archive/2013/15126-no-consensus-on-gmo-safety-scientists-release-statement
[2] High levels of residues from spraying with glyphosate found in soybeans in Argentina (2013) TestBiotech http://www.testbiotech.de/sites/default/files/TBT_Background_Glyphosate_Argentina_0.pdf
[3] Heinemann J., Massaro M., Coray D., Apapito-Tenfen S. & Wen J (2013) Sustainability and innovation in staple crop production in the US Midwest. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability.http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14735903.2013.806408#.UeX5qVOw525
[4] Argentine soy losing protein content, prices may fall http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/04/argentina-soy-idUSL1N0EG1DE20130604
[5]Soybean Imports (Mundi) http://www.indexmundi.com/agriculture/?country=nz&commodity=soybean-meal&graph=imports
[6] Paganelli, A., Gnazzo, V., Acosta, H., López, S.L., Carrasco, A.E. 2010. Glyphosate-based herbicides produce terato-genic effects on vertebrates by impairing retinoic acid signaling. Chem. Res. Toxicol., August 9. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/tx1001749
ENDS:
Contact:
Jon Carapiet - National spokesperson 0210507681
Claire Bleakley - President 06 3089842/ 027 348 6731

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